Moving to Syria
Expats moving to Syria might be excited about relocating to a destination steeped in over 7,000 years of rich history. As a country which lies at the crossroads of Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Syria is home to a diverse range of cultural influences.
However, since mid 2012, Syria has been in the midst of political upheaval after the country’s citizens rose up against President Bashar Hafez Assad’s authoritarian regime. Safety and security is now a major concern for expats living in Syria. The British Foreign Office and the US Department of State advise their citizens against all travel to Syria and have also urged those already in the country to leave as soon as possible. The expat population is therefore considerably smaller than it once was.
The threat of terrorism is high and there is serious widespread fighting throughout the country, even in the capital, Damascus. There have also been a number of kidnappings of Westerners, especially journalists reporting on the conflict.
Syria was once a popular destination for expats who were relocated to work in its petroleum industry or as diplomatic personnel. Therefore, at one stage the country was well-prepared to cater for expats with a range of international schools to educate expat children and some excellent private hospitals. Due to the fact that most expats have left Syria, many of these institutions have ceased operations.
While the country’s population is predominantly Sunni Muslim, it's unique within the Middle East because of its progressive attitude, especially towards women, stemming from Syria’s socialist origins.
Arabic is the official language of Syria and while many Syrians speak fluent English or French as a second language, expats benefit from taking an Arabic course like the ones offered by the British Council and University of Damascus.
While Syria is a fascinating country full of history, natural beauty and historical architecture, it is unfortunate that it is not possible for expats to make the most of the opportunities in this vibrant destination. The fact that commercial flights to Syria have now been terminated will make it extremely difficult for expats to travel in and out of the country. Those offered lucrative employment packages to move to Syria should consider postponing their trip until the political unrest settles down and some of the modern amenities are up and running again.